What Should the World Bank Do?

 Robert B. Zoellick
Who will replace Robert Zoellick as World Bank President? (Photo: World Bank Photo Collection/Flickr)

NEW YORK – I have been honored by World Bank directors representing developing countries and Russia to be selected as one of two developing-country candidates to become the Bank’s next president. So I want to make known to the global community the principles that will guide my actions if I am elected – principles based on lessons learned from development experience.

That experience has taught me that successful development is always the result of a judicious mix of market, state, and society. Trying to suppress markets leads to gross inefficiencies and loss of dynamism. Trying to do without the state leads to unstable and/or inequitable outcomes. And trying to ignore social actors that play an essential role at the national and local levels precludes the popular legitimacy that successful policymaking requires.

Indeed, the specific mix of markets, state, and society should be the subject of national decisions adopted by representative authorities. This means that it is not the role of any international institution to impose a particular model of development on any country – a mistake that the World Bank made in the past, and that it has been working to correct. Because no “one-size-fits-all” strategy exists, the Bank must include among its staff the global diversity of approaches to development issues.

The International Economic and Financial Systems

Image: 401kcalculator.org/flickr

Phase 1 of our Editorial Plan – a phase dedicated to tracing the structural changes occurring in the international system – has thus far mostly looked at intangibles. In other words, we at the ISN have explored, in a prism-like way, the roles of future forecasting; geopolitical thought; globalization, multiculturalism, and nationalism; evolving international norms and laws, etc., in shaping the international system. Indeed, these frameworks, processes and, yes, even ideologies may be to one degree or another ephemeral, but they have all contributed to the systemic changes we have seen in the last 20-30 years. (Even future forecasting can have a self-fulfilling prophecy component to it.) Influential as all these topics have been, however, a critic might ask when are we going to get “real” – i.e., when are we going to deal with the facts-on-the-ground reality of politics and its relationship to economics? The answer is “now.” Over the next several weeks, we will look at the past, present and future of the international economic and financial systems, we will then explore their relationship to global economic development, and we will close our enquiry by analyzing the current dynamics that exist between economics, politics and war. By looking at our three-part subject again in a prism-like way, we hope to highlight how economic and financial forces do indeed provide an impetus to wholesale change in the international system.